The Art and Science of Worldbuilding For Gameplay [+]

Reynard

Legend
I think you’re assuming that change to a setting means it’s broken, and that’s a mistake. If you look at what @Vraal said, Spire is set up so that things… consequential things… are about to take place. Things are going to change.

I don’t think that’s the same as “breaking” the setting.
Let's check:
Glad someone mentioned Spire, I was going to as well but for a different reason. I can't remember where I first encountered this analogy, but I think it's a good principle of worldbuilding for this medium: set up your world so that it's a powder keg about to blow.
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Spire is a great example of this. The setting is incredibly detailed (some might say too detailed), but everything's constructed with player engagement in mind; the city's absolutely packed with fuses to light. Even if the action of the campaign is confined to just a single district, you've got extremely good odds that after a few sessions, much of the setting, if not all of it, will never be the same again.
 

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Let's check:

I think its a question of how severe the stakes actually are, and if the unraveling of those stakes actually leave room to keep telling stories.

For example, Lord of the Rings. Tolkien started a sequel, but it never gained traction because how he ended LOTR was so final, for lack of a more precise term. To continue to tell the stories that would logically follow would undermine those stories, and that from what Ive learned about Tolkiens thoughts on his sequel is more or less why it never gained steam.

In the scheme of things this is sort of the inverse problem of Superhero movies having basically no real stakes so that there's basically no restriction or limit in terms of sequels and continuations.

Finding a middle ground is usually best, and in RPGs I think its been pretty common for sequels and such to have substantial time skips between big stories, as that time skip allows for more or less a reset (or a degradation) to occur so that the game can exist again.

Incidentally, I do think if Tolkien had more years under his belt he would have found a way to make his sequel work without taking away from LOTR. He had, after all, already hit on the right formula in how he handled Bilbo, but it'd take a lot more work to do it for basically everyone else of note in the LOTR.
 



Reynard

Legend
Incidentally, I do think if Tolkien had more years under his belt he would have found a way to make his sequel work without taking away from LOTR. He had, after all, already hit on the right formula in how he handled Bilbo, but it'd take a lot more work to do it for basically everyone else of note in the LOTR.
Perhaps. But the way I am looking at playability in world building using Tolkien as an (Imperfect) example is that one campaign might have been the war against the Witch King and the Fall of Arnor. Another, the war of Dwarves and Orcs. Another the battle for Rohan against the Dunlendings. And so on. Each certainly had stakes and each certainly deeply impacted the world, but none of those events un- or re-made the world. As opposed to the Fall of Numenor or The War of the Ring, each of which essentially created a new setting upon completion (though still related).

Obviously, Tolkien isn't the best example because he wasn't world building for playability, but I think you see what I'm saying.
 

prabe

Tension, apprension, and dissension have begun
Supporter
I'm not sure what you are driving at. Are you suggesting that if the changes aren't immediate and immense, they don't "count" somehow? Or that without the ability to break the world, the players have no agency?
I think there are two points to what @hawkeyefan is saying--though I'm open to being corrected on this.

One is that what the PCs are doing should be important. Maybe that means changing the larger external world, maybe it doesn't.

The other is that changing the world isn't the same as breaking the world.
 

Reynard

Legend
One is that what the PCs are doing should be important.
Important to them at least. It doesn't necessarily have to be Important in the usual way we mean that.
Maybe that means changing the larger external world, maybe it doesn't.
Sure.
The other is that changing the world isn't the same as breaking the world.
Again, I was responding to a specific statement that was specifically advocating for players being able to break the setting. And all I was saying is that isn't preferable for long term use of the setting.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I'm not sure what you are driving at. Are you suggesting that if the changes aren't immediate and immense, they don't "count" somehow? Or that without the ability to break the world, the players have no agency?

Neither. You accused me of going to extreme, but here you're offering only extremes as an option.

I think, when it comes to playability, it makes more sense to worldbuild with a mind toward dynamic situations rather than static ones, to change rather than preservation.

They don't need to be world-shattering changes or "break" the setting. But whatever the changes may be, they should be honored, and the setting should be able to handle them.

I think you're approaching this from a sense that setting stability promotes long term play... and I don't really agree.

Again, I was responding to a specific statement that was specifically advocating for players being able to break the setting. And all I was saying is that isn't preferable for long term use of the setting.

No one mentioned "breaking" the setting except you. Irrevocable change is not the same as "breaking". You took change to be equal to breaking.
 

prabe

Tension, apprension, and dissension have begun
Supporter
Again, I was responding to a specific statement that was specifically advocating for players being able to break the setting. And all I was saying is that isn't preferable for long term use of the setting.
The passages you quoted--even the lines you bolded ("set up your world so it's a powder keg about to blow" and "you've got extremely good odds that after a few sessions, much of the setting, if not all of it, will never be the same again") don't read to me as "breaking the setting." The former just means that you have situations that are, for lack of a better word coming to mind, looming. The latter just means that the setting isn't set in stone.
 

Reynard

Legend
The passages you quoted--even the lines you bolded ("set up your world so it's a powder keg about to blow" and "you've got extremely good odds that after a few sessions, much of the setting, if not all of it, will never be the same again") don't read to me as "breaking the setting." The former just means that you have situations that are, for lack of a better word coming to mind, looming. The latter just means that the setting isn't set in stone.
That reading doesn't reflect the point of the post I quoted in my opinion. But since neither of us wrote that post, I suppose it's not worth arguing about.

But I never suggested there should not be change. What I said was breaking the setting was not helpful for continued use of it.
 

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